His death, just a few weeks before the first dates, meant that the work involved in creating the show of a lifetime was never seen. One year on, gigs and tribute performances have been held all around the world in memorial and Sky Movies HD did their bit by showing the film.
I was a little unsure throughout the credits, and felt no better when footage from the dancer’s audition day showed men and women sobbing as they described how emotional it felt just to perform in front of the man himself. I’m sure it was a big deal, but I didn’t want to spend the next few hours watching tearful (and somewhat insincere) tributes. However, it seemed fitting that I should watch it now as a I’d been curious about the film since its release, so I stuck with it.
The first shot is of MJ on stage rehearsing, mixed in with other shots of him performing the same track. At first I swore that the second shot was filmed at an earlier point in his career. After a double take, and five minutes of watching him dance like a 20-year-old, talk about stage positioning with director Kenny Ortega and sing at half-mast (to save his voice), I realised that it really was him a few months prior to his death.
There were a few rumours flying around about MJ’s health prior to the announcement about the O2 shows, and several bloggers posted conspiracy theories questioning whether it would actually be him on stage. I won’t say I didn’t listen, and it did cross my mind that it might be true.
However, as he danced on screen in beautiful HD, it was clear it was him. I sat for almost two hours, watching him sing soaring duets with his backing vocalists, outperform his dancers – who were sweating to keep up – and perhaps most interestingly, show real perfectionism when working on the arrangements with his musical director.
Drama and criticism of his personal life aside (which I’m not being blasé about by any means), I was happy to see him as he *really* was a few months before he died. Not a caricature of himself created by the media. Yes he looks frail, but god, the man was fifty odd. His soft voice still joked and smiled with those around him, and This Is It shows MJ as the fantastic performer he should have remained.
My favourite MJ track is Beat It, because you just can’t resist that bassline, and what’s more – he’s the only man I’ve ever seen get anywhere CLOSE to pulling off a red pvc/plastic sports jacket. Also, it includes the best guitar solo from any of his tracks, ever.